traveling to a galaxy far, far away

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If you’re familiar with this blog, you may remember that I have not been to a Disney Park for 16 years.

Well I’m proud (?) to say that streak has been broken.

I was cajoled by my nephews (14 & 11) into going to D-land for the new Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge land that recently opened at the end of May.  This was a momentous occasion, and the really only thing that warranted a special visit.  I will say that not much else has changed at the happiest place on earth since I last stepped foot inside, and maybe that’s a part of its charm (especially for millennials).

may the force be with me…

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know before you go: MIA

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One of the few times the blog post title actually makes sense because chances are, during a weekend in Miami, there’s a high probability of actually going MIA.

Miami International (formerly Wilcox Airport) is one of the busiest airports in volume and is a main gateway to Latin America.  This place is always bustling.  Located about 8 miles from Downtown, it serves the entire metropolitan area of Miami/Dade County.

Like everything else in this city, the set up is a little confusing, with three terminals: North, Central and South. North houses the largest Concourse, D, which is the main home of American and takes the bulk of passengers both domestic and international.  Central Terminal has Concourses E, F, and G serving OneWorld, international carriers and domestics, respectively.  South Terminal has Concourses H and J, which serves Delta/SkyTeam and Star Alliance with a few One World carriers as well.  In total, there are 131 gates.

Remember: ✈️ = miami vice to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ =  welcome to miami

Convenience to the city: ✈️✈️✈️ (8 miles from downtown, there is a MetroRail, Amtrak, buses and buses)

Ease of navigating through terminals:  ✈️✈️✈️ (it’s a large airport, so at least there’s the MIAmover to take you between terminals and to the rental car facility.  It’s a little bit of a hike to get there though)

Dining: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (Where MIA achieves success is having a lot of dining options that explore local flavors.  There’s a lot of Cuban food in this airport, like a lot, a lot.  From the famed Cafe Versailles to the modern Ku Va, if you have a hankering for some Cubano treats, you’ve got it.  There’s also the normal Pizza Hut, Starbucks, Dunkin, McD’s, KFC, Sbarro, TGIFriday’s, Taco Bell, Burger King, Nathan’s fare.)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️✈️ (Terminal D is very well lit, clean, could have more locations)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️✈️✈️ (free wifi, decent amount of charging)

Amenities: ✈️✈️✈️✈️ (hotel on the premises, yoga room, Military Hospitality, multiple American Admiral’s clubs, VIP lounge by LATAM, Delta Sky Club, Avianca/Star Alliance, and even a Consular lounge for foreign dignitaries, which is kind of cool.  MIA also fancies itself as a mall, and there are the typical brands like Michael Kors, Coach, MAC, Bijoux Terner, Sunglass Hut and Hudson.  There’s also some specialty shops that are hella random shops like RonJon, Penguin and Johnnie Walker to keep it interesting.  Great place to people watch, saw the Chainsmokers at the gate last time I was here.)

 

 

 

3 days in Toronto: NBA Finals edition

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A year ago, I literally posted that about the move that sent Kawhi up north. Well, apparently that trade certainly paid off as the Toronto Raptors will be playing the GS Warriors (yawn) in the NBA Finals.  No hate towards the Warriors, but aren’t we all sort of rooting for some new blood to take the Larry O’Brien?

Here’s a throwback post all about the great white north:

Oh Canada…

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Sonoma Wine Country Weekend

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In honor of the new Amy Poehler directed movie, Wine Country, that hit Netflix last week, here’s to celebrating some of the best Sonoma Valley has to offer.

Visiting Napa during Memorial Day weekend is a must for my all time festival love, Bottlerock, but I actually almost prefer the less crowded, easy going nature of the Sonoma Valley.   They’re both great.  This is how you know you’re old, by how much you enjoy wine country.

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half of my heart is in havana

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Cuba has always been a mysterious destination to me, an off limits locale due to the long standing US embargo.  And what they say is true, you often want what you can’t have.  Thus, when the travel ban was eased in 2015, Havana shot to the top of my list of places to travel, and I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to visit.

Growing up in the US, there was not much information about this large Caribbean nation other than what was very briefly covered in history books, so I didn’t know what to expect.

This turned out to be a good thing because Havana was the best surprise.  I was stricken by its je ne sais quois (or no se que in Spanish…doesn’t really translate ;).  I mean, it’s an incredibly culturally rich and beautiful city.  It is both quaint and cosmopolitan, architecturally divine with its expansive boulevards and thoughtful city planning.  But there’s more to it than that because a lot of cities have those things and they’re not quite as fascinating.

Historically speaking, from pirates to American gangsters, you’re not going to find as interesting a place in these parts.  The country’s rise to immense power due to the sugar trade was astounding and its revolutionary history with its colorful figures is even more intriguing.  And being closed off to American travel for so long?  Maybe that adds to the allure.  Whatever it is, Havana is a really wonderful destination.

As Camila Cabello says, take me back, back, back…

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day trip to Louisville: Derby time!

Derby City has a long, illustrious history of horse farms, and of course, the Kentucky Derby, but there’s so much more to the city.  It’s the hometown of the Greatest, Muhammad Ali, Louisville Slugger and great southern eats like Kentucky Fried Chicken. Come on, you know you love those 13 spices.

I only got to drive through this city, but the roadtrip through this part of the country is serene and beautiful.  There’s fields of bluegrass for as far as the eye can see and pastoral scenes of horse farms and billboards advertising bourbon distilleries and caves.  It does not get more southern than this.  If you’re coming from the South, you will pass Abraham Lincoln’s birthplace, too.  Louisville sits on the banks of the Ohio river and for that, was/is considered the gateway to the South.  And in fact, if you cross the river, you’ll be in Indiana.

Louisville, even though steeped in Southern history, seems very vibrant and young, maybe in part due to the college atmosphere.  There are a lot of trendy coffeeshops, I really liked Quills and local chain Sunergos.

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My first must see in the River City was the Muhammad Ali Center, a cultural museum dedicated to Cassius Clay, the man who would become the greatest American boxer of all time.  This center has interactive displays, movies and even a boxing ring.

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There’s tons of paintings and art featuring him, including this gorgeous piece by LeRoy Neiman.

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It’s not for profit, and celebrates the life of a man who inspired so many.

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The center sits on Louisville’s waterfront, which features a large lawn and green area, with playgrounds, paths and an outdoor event venue.

Louisville’s downtown is actually larger than I expected, with the center being the KFC YUM Center, where the Louisville Cardinal NCAA team plays basketball.  You are in Bourbon country, so there is a Woodford Reserve Club in the arena, and just down the street is one of the distilleries on the Bourbon Trail, Evan Williams.

The buildings in the West Main District and Whiskey Row have facades in the cast iron revivalist style, similar to those in SoHo in NYC.  There are tons of art galleries and museums, hotels in this walkable area.  It’s also home to the arts district of Louisville, with the Center of the Performing Arts and Actors Theatre.  Inside the Actors Theatre is MilkWood, one of severeal Top Chef allum Ed Lee’s dining experiences in the city.  I wanted to try this place so badly, but it was closed when I was passing through.  Louisville has a ton of high end dining options: maybe you’ll run into Tom Brady at Decca or the Fat Lamb, you never know.

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Behind that large gold replica of Michelangelo’s David (not sure the reason for that), lies Proof, a funkily decorated dining room that features everything from catfish dip to bourbon pie.  And of course, they’ve got juleps, which you’ve got to try when you’re in Kentucky.

Just a few blocks down is the Louisville Slugger museum.  You can’t miss it, it’s the one with the 120 foot tall baseball bat in front of it.

IMG_7115.JPGThis museum also serves as an active factory and you can take a 20 minute tour where they show you from start to finish how the bats are made.  Everyone gets a free mini-bat, but just remember not to put it in your carry on if you’re flying (it will be confiscated).  There’s a wall of famous “slugger” autographs and batting cages, of course.  There’s also famous bats that you can hold.  It’s kitschy, but I’m into baseball, so I liked it.

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This was a super quick trip, but that’s a good starting point to your Derby weekend.  Even though Churchill Downs is the main event, don’t forget to explore the other amazing attractions this city has to offer.

Famous Louisvillians: Muhammad Ali, Tom Cruise, Jennifer Lawrence, Hunter S. Thompson, Diane Sawyer, and Rajon Rondo (a motley crew if there ever was one)

Listen to: Nicole Scherzinger, My Morning Jacket, Patty Loveless and Bryson Tiller (Louisville gets more and more interesting as this list goes on)

Souvenirs: umm, Bourbon and a Louisville Sluggers — that should make for a fun night?

24 hours in Salt Lake City

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Salt Lake City is a really underrated travel destination.  I mean, a lot of people go there, but I don’t think it’s anyone’s first thought.  Maybe it should be.

First of all, it is probably one of the safest cities around.  Secondly, it’s a great jumping point to get to so many state and national parks (SO MANY).  Zion, Bryce Canyon, Moab/Arches, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, Utah has a ton of natural wonders throughout including the Great Salt Lake which gives the capital city its moniker.

As if that weren’t enough, in the winter, there’s world class skiing in Sundance/Park City and Snowbird, making it a great vacation spot.  Delta Airlines has a hub here making it super easy to get to as well.  So if you haven’t been, what are you waiting for?

don’t get too salty now…

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Bienvenido a Miami: Parte 1

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south beach bringing the heat

I may be the only person who goes to Miami for the architecture. Context: Miami is not my favorite place. I don’t enjoy nightlife (I am a million years old), scantily clad people (I will never own or wear a body stocking, no one wants to see this) or loudness (both in sounds and personalities). I get you, Miami, but you’re not always my type. When you’re still, you’re lovely, but you can get crazy so fast. Too temperamental.

I think when you’re young and you go there, it’s a lot of pressure to go out and party, but you know what?   In your 30s, you no longer give AF. And that, my friends, is growing up.

Welcome to Miami…

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MSP: NCAA Championship edition

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Man, it seems like Minneapolis is getting all of the sporting events because of their fancy new stadium.  Of course, the NCAA tourney will be played there on Monday, April 8th.  For those of you heading to the game this upcoming week, here’s a little Minnesota refresher.

you’re gonna make it after all…

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know before you go: KOA

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The long anticipated Southwest to Hawaii routes just went on sale, and man were there some good deals (especially if you have flexible schedules).  I’m definitely going to have to take advantage of a random Tuesday flight one of these days –worth it for < $100 from LAX.  The departure cities are mostly from Northern California and the destinations are three airports for now: HNL (Oahu), OGG (Maui) and KOA (Big Island), with the hope to expand to more destinations and inter-island flights.

Often times overshadowed by it’s flashier sister Oahu, a Big Island adventure is actually Hawaiian must.  So much vast, natural beauty.  Volcanoes National Park, Waipio, Akaka Falls and black sand beaches are just a few delightful destinations on this very large island.  Throwback to my 5 day itinerary, which is a perfect amount of time to spend hanging loose in the Hawaiian tropics.

Ellison Onizuka (in honor of Challenger astronaut and hometown hero) Kona Airport is the Big Island’s larger airport (the other being Hilo ITO) and it truly looks like a Polynesian village when you taxi towards the main cluster of buildings.  It really reminds me of the Siem Reap airport in Cambodia, too.  The bulk of the structure is outdoors, because it is so temperate and gorgeous in Hawaii.

There are technically two Terminals 1 which has gates 1-5, and 2 which houses gates 6-10.  It only has one runway, and still uses ramps to board and deplane passengers from planes.  I love these kinds of airports, it makes you feel like you’re flying Pan Am in the 60s or something.  Southwest joins Hawaiian, Japan, United, Delta, Alaska and American.

Remember: ✈️ = go Big Island or go home to ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ = Bigger the Island, the better

Distance from city: ✈️✈️✈️ (about 7 miles from Kona Village, 25 miles from the resorts on the Kohala Gold Coast — give yourself time if you’re renting a car, it can take a long time)

Ease of navigating through terminals: ✈️✈️✈️✈️✈️ (could probably walk from one side to the other in 5 minutes)

Convenience of check in/security lines: ✈️✈️✈️ (a lot of families, one security area, you do the math)

Dining: ✈️ (there’s not much, so highly suggest picking up something from Pine Tree Cafe nearby — the chicken karaage and mac salad, mmm so good)

Bathrooms: ✈️✈️ (not many, but not usually crowded)

Charging stations/wifi: ✈️ (no wifi set up yet)

Amenities: ✈️✈️ (you can definitely get lei’d here, and that’s a plus right?)